In the opening pages of his 2003 blockbuster The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown famously contends that “all descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate.” A decade later, a similarly ludicrous claim to historical accuracy appears on the first page of Inferno. He writes: “Fact: All artwork, literature, science, and historical references in this novel are real.” I find the use of the word fact particularly charming.
What should we make of such insistence as the lead salvo in a work of fiction? It is both immediately irresistible and patently absurd. Fact: I’m powerless to say precisely what he means by it—or why he would make such a disingenuous remark. Imagine a narrator stating at the beginning of an Edgar Allan Poe tale: “Fact: Everything you are about to read is true.”